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Napili Kai Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary

By Staff | May 5, 2016

The Napili Kai Foundation stages the longest-running weekly keiki hula show in the state on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. at Napili Kai Beach Resort.

NAPILI – The Napili Kai Foundation will launch its 50th year with a special show on Tuesday, May 17, at Napili Kai Beach Resort’s Aloha Pavilion.

“We are also celebrating the 50th anniversary with a number of special events. There is an Alumni 50th Anniversary Dinner and Show that will take place at Napili Kai Beach Resort in the fall. Past and present foundation members, their families and friends, as well as local dignitaries will be invited,” explained foundation Vice President Janice Studwell.

“A golf tournament is scheduled for Sunday, November 13th, and will be a major fundraiser. There are other special events, still in the planning stages, that will take place throughout the year.”

Founded on April 18, 1966, the nonprofit Napili Kai Foundation (NKF) was recently congratulated with a special message from Hawaii Gov. David Ige and a County of Maui proclamation by Mayor Alan Arakawa.

“With the mission to perpetuate the cultural legacy of Hawai’i through the children of Maui, the Napili Kai Foundation offers an educational forum that teaches children about the rich heritage of Polynesia through song, dance, language, history, arts and culture,” Gov. Ige wrote.

“Since 1966, the Napili Kai Foundation has conducted a free keiki hula program, providing keiki the opportunity to gain awareness and experience pride in their contribution to the preservation and celebration of Hawai’i’s unique cultural heritage. Over 1,000 keiki have participated in the Foundation’s hula program, with graduates receiving higher education scholarships to achieve their educational and career goals.

“Congratulations to the Napili Kai Foundation. Mahalo for all you do for our keiki and island community. I wish you a wonderful 50th Anniversary celebration.”

Mayor Arakawa wrote in his message, “Over the past 50 years, the Napili Kai Foundation has demonstrated exceptional success in strengthening the relationship between the Maui visitor industry and the Hawaiian community through the education of Maui’s keiki in the history, arts, crafts, dance, language, skills and lore of Hawaii. In turn, our keiki have gained pride and an awareness of the ways they can contribute to the preservation and celebration of Maui’s cultural heritage.

“The Napili Kai Foundation is to be commended for your dedication to our community. I wish you continued success for future generations to come.”

Studwell said the foundation appreciates the recognition.

“The commendation and proclamation from Mayor Arakawa and the County of Maui, along with the recognition from Governor Ige, were very special acknowledgements that truly validate the hard work and dedication of all involved. It is gratifying to be recognized by our community, and it definitely gives the foundation the inspiration to continue for another 50 years,” she commented.

NKF currently has 32 keiki in different stages of training. Studwell said more than 1,000 young people have gone through the foundation over the years, and now the children and grandchildren of alumni are participating in the program.

In its fifth decade of service, the foundation’s key goals are to continue to promote its mission to perpetuate the cultural legacy of Hawaii through the children of Maui; provide free education in the history, arts, crafts, dance, language skills and lore of Hawaii; offer keiki a meaningful experience in sharing the aloha spirit; provide members with opportunities to enrich their lives; fund-raise for the program and for NKF’s special scholarship fund; and perpetuate the foundation for future generations.

The foundation is guided by an all-volunteer board of directors comprised of current and retired employees, as well as shareholders and owners of Napili Kai Beach Resort.

Kumu Hula Kathy Ralar, who has been with NKF for 35 years, serves as manager. Assisting her are Kumu Hula Kalei Jaramillo, Rance Villarimo and Phyllis Ross. The children’s parents also pitch in and help when needed.

In addition to staging the longest-running weekly keiki hula show in the state on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. at Napili Kai Beach Resort, 5900 Lower Honoapiilani Road, the foundation has a higher education scholarship program that sets it apart from other hula groups.

Upon graduation from high school, NKF graduates can apply for education assistance (and may reapply for a total of five years). To date, the foundation has awarded over $100,000 to assist NKF keiki in their education and career goals.

Napili Kai Foundation keiki are also involved in cultural exchanges and have traveled to the Mainland to perform at schools and cultural centers. The last of those trips took place in 2013, and the next one is being planned for 2017.

There are also cultural seminars and presentations that are offered locally throughout the year.

A new development for the 50-year-old foundation is its revamped and expanded website (napilikaifoundation.org) that will enable NKF to reach beyond the boundaries of Maui.

“We put together a DVD that showcases the keiki’s performance, along with a history of our first 50 years, and it can be purchased through our website,” Studwell noted.

“We are committed to increasing our promotion and publicity in order to promote public awareness of our very special program.”